"There are a large number of regional initiatives to develop tourist brands. However, the question today is how we go about assessing the competitiveness of the regions and what parameters we should use for that," said the deputy head of the Analytical Center Mikhail Pryadilnikov, as he opened an expert discussion on methods for estimating the competitiveness of regions in tourism.
The Head of the Department for International Co-operation of the Analytical Center Denis Yershov touched upon the issue of global ratings. "We need to look at the system of international ratings to figure out which international practice is the best and what criteria international experts, companies and tourists look at first and foremost," the expert said. In his opinion, the new Big Data and Open Data trends should not be ignored either. "If you want to get noticed you have got to offer people quality information and make sure it is easy to get hold of," Mr. Yershov is sure. This refrain was echoed by the lead researcher of the Russian State University off Tourism and Service Olga Valnyarskaya, who stressed that the criteria must be objective, measurable and informative.
The experts noted that ratings had both pros and cons. On the one hand, a rating gives you a picture of where a country is on the global map, how much progress it has made, while also stimulating public discussion of important problems. On the other, there is a tendency to use opaque methodology and simplify complex issues. "Ratings today are hardly a tool of economic analysis, but instead are often used as a market manipulation instrument," believes the president of the Russian Union of the Tourist Industry Sergey Shpilko. M. Lomonosov MSU Geography Faculty professor Anna Alexandrova said it was necessary to talk about systems of ratings rather than about any individual ratings. "All ratings must work for the rating of the country as a whole," she believes.
Development of the tourist industry will promote successful practices in this area. STAS' Marketing Managing Partner Andrey Stas' presented a draft program for creating a venue where various tourist brands would be reviewed and rated in order to create some professional standards, draw media attention as well as reduce bias when assessing the progress made by the tourist industry. The project seeks to systematize all Russian brands using objective statistical parameters and seeks to minimize bias in ratings. The idea is that once the project is implemented, ratings will be based on figures and statistics rather than on personal preference, the expert believes.
The discussion is to be continued. The experts now have to agree on a single methodology for rating regions, define priorities and come up with development programs for the industry which would stimulate international cooperation and help create an attractive image for the country as a major tourist destination.